Three universities in the Western Cape face public scrutiny as they struggle to get a handle on several sexual assault allegations by students.
The University of Cape Town (UCT), Stellenbosch University, and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) have been under the public’s watchful eye as students lay formal charges and make public sexual assault allegations. Separate cases across these campuses in May 2022, signal how widespread the problem is.
A student at UCT created an anonymous Twitter account in May 2022 called “RAPED@UCT” and accused a professor, who is also a Western Cape Government (WCG) Health Department staff member, of raping her on campus.
The allegations were posted on May 18, stating that “for months they failed to act/suspend [the] rapist. UCT has instructed me to not report the matter & keep it ‘internal’.”
Im a UCT student raped by a UCT professor on UCT premesis. I reported thus to UCT & for months they failed to act/suspend rapist. UCT has instructed me to not report the matter & keep it “internal”. I received threats from rapist. I’m in witness protection.
— RAPED@UCT (@RAPEDUCT1) May 18, 2022
Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, a source close to the victim says it started with incidents of sexual harassment while she was his student in 2020, escalating to an incident of rape in March 2021. The survivor brought it to the university’s attention that year but according to the source, UCT “failed to intervene” only finding the suspect guilty in an internal investigation conducted in February 2022.
UCT’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, challenged these accusations in a tweet saying the victim “refused help from the university”. Phakeng added “She must say what her real agenda is.”
This saw the VC admonished by numerous users, one user saying her “credibility [is] tainted”. A few days later, Phakeng apologised for her initial comments, calling them “insensitive”.
— Mamokgethi Phakeng🏳️🌈 (@FabAcademic) May 25, 2022
Though Wits Vuvuzela’s source claims that the investigation concluded in February, UCT’s May 18 press release from spokesperson, Elijah Mohalola, says the university and WCG are currently investigating the allegations.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) Western Cape spokesperson, Captain FC Van Wyk, confirms that the case is “currently under investigation at the FCS [Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offences] Unit Cape Town by Detective Captain Willie Reyneveld. No person has been arrested at this stage, investigations [continue].”
One day after the UCT case surfaced on Twitter, an 18-year-old male student was charged with two counts of rape at Stellenbosch Magistrates court. According to Van Wyk, he raped a 19-year-old fellow student at around 22:30 on May 17, 2022, at a student residence in Stellenbosch.
The university’s spokesperson, Mark Viljoen, says there is no place for acts of violence on their campus, however, Stellenbosch’s SRC begs to differ.
The SRC believes that “this institution [Stellenbosch University] is not taking this systemic plague seriously enough,” adding that they “cannot fathom” the university’s current situation after the anti-gender-based violence movement in 2019.
A weekend later, reports of a CPUT student’s alleged rape comes to light. At a party on May 14, an 18-year-old student alleges that an unidentified suspect raped her in Wellington, a town merely 35 minutes away from Stellenbosch. The student was allegedly covered in blood after the ordeal.
The university’s spokesperson, Lauren Kansley, says that CPUT is currently investigating the allegation, and “standard protocol(s)” particular to rape incidents are being employed to assist the student.
Once again all the SAPS could say through Van Wyk, is that, “Investigations [continue], no arrest as yet.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Stellenboch students rallying against GBV and racism. Photo: MatieMedia/Nakishka Skriker